crisis communications

5 Characteristics of Great Crisis Communications

Getting your crisis communications right is critical to both weathering the storm and coming out on the other side with loyal customers who are still standing by your side. Like any form of customer communication, there are many details to take into consideration, including what tone you use, your ability to connect with the customer or client, and how well you’re managing their emotions and answering their questions.

As you craft press releases, don’t rely on old, stale messaging or the typical cookie-cutter version of empathy. Stand out and ensure your startup’s communications have an impact by keeping these critical crisis communications characteristics in mind.

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People want to be heard and understood, especially during a crisis. That’s why empathy is a critical element of successful crisis communications. Overlooking what your customers and clients are feeling is overlooking them as people, not to mention missing an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of one another.

“We all become more human when we’ve gone through pain, and we all become more deeply connected when we’ve suffered together. Those emotional realities are also valid when it comes to relationships between businesses and consumers. If we suffer together and yet support each other, those bonds will only strengthen over the long term,” Olaf Acker a thought leader in digital services for Strategy&, said.

Use this as an opportunity to really hear your customers and practice showing empathy. The best way to do that is to allow yourself, your business and your employees to be vulnerable. We’re all feeling anxious, stressed, and worried—and if you allow yourself and your team to share that, you may just find you’re more connected with your customers and clients than ever before.

Related: 10 SEO Tips and Tactics to Improve Communication During COVID-19


How you act during a crisis can make or break your brand. Customers and clients are likely getting a lot of conflicting information right now, and they’re relying on you to be honest and transparent in what you share.

Caroline Liller, VP and Senior Account Executive for 10x digital, explains in her recent blog post, Transparency and Content: Now and Always:

“No one is ever fully prepared for a crisis but rooting your company’s response in transparency helps mitigate panic and unwanted repercussions within your business. The principal is simple: honesty is the best policy. Having clear and accurate communication during times of crisis, and as a general rule, can increase brand trust and allow you to accurately manage expectations with employees and clients.”

Luckily, being transparent doesn’t require any extra budget or an extensive plan. All it requires is that you share honestly and openly with the people who matter most: your customers and clients.

Bring this transparency into all of your communications—from website messaging to social media posts, and don’t be afraid to show emotion. Differentiate your brand from competitors by being the people who are sharing openly.

Be clear and succinct

Great crisis communications are clear and succinct in both the verbiage used and the medium you choose. During a time of fear and uncertainty, customers and clients want to know what you’re doing, how it’s impacting them, and what they can expect to come without any fluff. Don’t make them guess and don’t make them read through the lines.

Clarify your core message first and foremost and put that at the beginning of all communications, rather than buying it beneath jargon. Use this three-step formula to develop clear and succinct messaging:

  • Identify stakeholders: Employees, board members, customers, etc. You’ll have varying messages for each group.
  • Identify your communication channels: Video, blog post, press release?
  • Draft communications and secure approvals: Get everyone on the same page before sharing any communications to ensure clarity. 

Be conversational

Don’t just speak at your customers in a crisis, sharing updates and relevant content like everyone else—have a conversation using conversational marketing. This tactic “prioritizes quality feedback” and honest conversation, according to Jitendra Gidwani, founder of RightlyWritten, in his guide to conversational marketing.

He continues, “The idea that you can build lasting customer relationships through quality conversation over time isn’t just anecdotal conjecture; feeling as if they are genuinely heard is the single most likely thing to keep customers devoted to a brand.”

How do you facilitate conversational marketing during a crisis? You get the right tools in place to have those conversations, rather than simply fielding questions or providing answers.

A few tools that can be helpful include:

  • AI-powered chat
  • Social media listening
  • Automated emails asking for feedback or offering one-on-one calls

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Be customer-centric

Are you pushing messages and content just to do it, or is the crisis content you’re creating providing value to your customers? Your first question should always be, “Do we have a clear customer in mind for this piece of content?” As you draft communications in all forms, you have to know who the message and content is for in order to most authentically and powerfully connect with that customer.

For example, you may publish a blog post for all customers while crafting a more personalized email for your top clients. Knowing your audience is key to crafting a message that resonates and provides value, rather than simply existing because you have to say something.

Improve your crisis communications

Polish your crisis communications by making sure each press release you write, social media post you share or phone call you make all share these key characteristics. If you can get it right, you’ll come out of the storm with a stronger connection to customers and clients and a brand that people will remember.

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